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Creator / Cormac McCarthy

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Looks like someone’s granddad. Writes stuff that would make Pol Pot cry.

“I’m not interested in writing short stories. Anything that doesn’t take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.”

Cormac McCarthy (born Charles McCarthy, July 20, 1933) is an American novelist who has steadily risen in stature over the past 20 years. Though he has written since the 1960s, it was the publication of his book All the Pretty Horses in 1992, and its subsequent cinematic adaptation, that brought him widespread recognition.

Interest in McCarthy skyrocketed after The Coen Brothers’ Oscar-winning adaptation of his novel No Country for Old Men and the adaptation of The Road.

His reputation as one of the best living American writers was cemented in the placing of his book Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West behind Don Delillo's Underworld and Toni Morrison's Beloved in a New York Times poll of the Greatest American novels of the last 25 years.

A reclusive author, McCarthy surprised everybody when he agreed to give his first-ever television interview after Oprah Winfrey selected The Road for her famous Book Club.


While McCarthy has written books in genres such as historical fiction, Southern Gothic, crime and post-apocalyptic science fiction, most of his works are, at heart, Westerns. His books are infamous for their extreme content and use of Gorn. Murder, defilement, and wanton slaughter are par for the course for his works, so be warned if you choose to read them. That being said, they are also often said to be strongly written and deeply affecting. Common themes include existentialism, the importance of decency, the brutal reality of human nature, and the potential for evil that lurks within us all.

His books are also notable for their stylistic idiosyncrasies. McCarthy refuses to use commas, quotation marks or exclamation marks, and is fond of using extremely long run-on sentences when describing scenes. He often combines these traits for horrific effect, such as describing scenes of barbarity in long, breathless paragraphs that communicate what's going on with feverish intensity.


In early 2012, he made a big splash by selling his first screenplay, titled The Counselor, a drug thriller about a naive attorney who becomes involved in the drug trade. It was immediately picked up by the producers of the film adaptation of The Road, with Ridley Scott signing on to direct.

Works by McCarthy with their own pages include:

Other works by McCarthy contain examples of:

  • Ambiguously Human: Anton Chigurh and Judge Holden.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: What "carrying the fire" means. It's for this reason that McCarthy's work is often taught in conjunction with courses on Nietzsche (and to a lesser extent Kierkegaard).
  • Arc Words:
    • "Carrying the fire" shows up in No Country for Old Men and The Road, and is obliquely referenced at the end of Blood Meridian.
    • "Call it" showed up in All the Pretty Horses before it became a motif throughout No Country for Old Men.
  • Beige Prose: Blood Meridian and onwards are these.
  • Deconstruction
  • Eye Scream: In The Crossing, after the Mexican revolutionary mouths off to the German mercenary Wirtz and spits in his face, Wirtz proceeds to lick up the spittle, swallow it, smile, then sucks out the man's eyeballs with his mouth, leaving them to dangle down his face. The revolutionary talks about how, due to his eyes hanging from his face via a handful of nerves, the world seems to jostle as his eyes sway back and forth on his march back to camp.
  • Karma Houdini: Frequently. Most notably, the three murderous strangers of Outer Dark, Judge Holden of Blood Meridian, and possibly Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men.
  • Knife Fight: In The Border Trilogy.
  • Reclusive Artist: While he does have conversations with journalists, he hates giving interviews, talking about his own work, or even talking about writing.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The Crossing.
  • Signature Style
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: In The Crossing, a priest tells the story of a heretic who lost his entire family and demanded that if God exists, that he reveal himself by killing him on the spot or showing him some sign of his existence. The heretic sat for days in the same spot under a tower, asking for God to cause the tower to fall and kill him.
  • Southern Gothic: His pre-Blood Meridian work, in stark contrast to the Westerns he's most famous for.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: McCarthy has a number of stylistic idiosyncrasies, but his most pronounced is his continual refusal to use quotation marks, as well as an aversion to apostrophes when using contractions. Another quirk of his is that in many, if not all, of his books, there is not a single exclamation mark. At all. In an interview, he stated it's just because he doesn't want to clutter up the page.